Moose was born in a freestanding birth center; a decision I made around 22 weeks. I transferred practices after my anatomy scan came back normal and healthy. I wanted a water birth and the birth center provided that. I knew there were inherent risks to birth center delivery but my previous births and lower risk pregnancy made me a perfect candidate to delivery Moose how I wanted.
The weeks when by, my belly grew, my Braxton Hicks came, but nothing happened. My midwife discovered around 35 weeks that Moose was in a bad position. He was head down BUT facing out not in. Its called “Sunny Side Up” position ( talk about this more in my belly update), but at 35 weeks there is plenty of time for baby to move. Every visit Moose turned a little but never completely. By 40 weeks I started asking about options. My midwife rubbed my back sympathetically and told me nothing needed to be done until 42 weeks and 1 day. I knew I wanted a natural birth. I knew I trusted the “natural process” but by 40 weeks I couldn’t imagine waiting another 15 days for delivery. For the first time my pregnancy did not progress as “expected”. I missed my estimated due date by a week, then by 10 days. I sat through not one but two non-stress tests and did every spin the baby movement I could find. My midwife gave me herbal treatments to encourage baby to preposition. I spent all weekend relaxing, breathing, bathing, praying, begging, crying, hoping, and waiting. Nothing. Nothing. NOTHING! Monday I went in for a membrane sweep and ultrasound. The ultrasound tech said she’d never seen such a healthy post-term baby. My midwife held nothing back with my sweep and I started contracting almost immediately; I knew this was it. Labor was fast but I tried to use the time to spin Moose as much as I could. My midwife told me week before that babies spin during active labor all the time. Since this was my third baby the staff was not concerned about his position at all so I tried to relax and let the contractions flip him “back to belly”. Everything moved so quickly I didn’t have time to think while I was laboring. Less than 2 hours after arriving at the birth center transition hit. Laboring in the tub allowed me to float taking all pressure off my pelvis allowing baby to move as needed. When my body first pushed Moose moved down but immediately pulled back into the birth canal. I felt this and knew something was off but my midwife never indicated how dangerous the situation now was.
Moose and I were now dealing with Shoulder dystocia, a complication of labor and delivery in which one or both of the baby’s shoulders get “stuck” behind the mother’s pelvic bone as the baby descends into the birth canal. Moose’s left shoulder was stuck on my hip, this was why I hadn’t gone into labor; this was why he wouldn’t turn. My midwife knew exactly what was going on and calmly asked me “Skylar what do you want to do?” She wanted me to listen to my body and follow my instincts. I remember clear as day, at that moment my brain went blank. I shut my eyes and shook my head saying “I don’t know! I don’t know!” Bonnie rubbed my leg and told me you try pushing from my side to help Moose move down. I don’t remember making a conscious decision to move but I layer flat on my right side, holding onto the safety railing and withing seconds Moose was out and in my arms.
He was beautiful, then I saw his face. He looked like he’d gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. His cheeks were raised. His eyes were swollen shut. He couldn’t latch because he was too bruised. His face had been pushing against my hip the whole time I was in labor. I wanted to cry; I felt like I did this to him. His bruising put him at a higher risk for jaundice too. I didn’t take many pictures of his face because I didn’t want to explain what was wrong. I kissed him as softly as I could. He is so strong. I nursed him in sunlight as often as I could. He took sun baths when he slept during the day to help fight off jaundice. There wasn’t much I could do for the bruising.
Two days after birth a nurse came to the house for our check up. By than Moose was eating well despite still being visibly swollen. The whites of his eyes were bloodshot but clear so jaundice was no longer a huge concern. All good news aside his birth still haunted me. I noticed he wasn’t using his left arm, the arm that was stuck during labor. I mentioned it to the nurse who agreed it needed evaluating. Luckily x-rays found nothing wrong with the bones or shoulder. Our family chiropractor diagnosed Moose with slight nerve damage and pulled muscles from his traumatic birth. He suggested stretches and now at five months Moose shows no signs of permanent effects.
During all the doctor visits and worry I kept asking myself “is this my fault!? What if I hadn’t used a birth center? Would he be this way if I we’d birthed in a hospital?” It took me weeks to answer these questions. Bonnie, my midwife called to see how I was handling everything and to discuss Moose. She explained what happened during labor and how she suspected the shoulder sustained injury during delivery. She then made an offer handed comment that changed everything. She said “luckily you were already in the tub.” I finally understood! If Moose had been born in a hospital my stalled pushing would have triggered an emergency c-section, and for good reason shoulder dystocia is very dangerous if prolonged. The only reason Moose could shift out of my hip was because I was floating. My hip was able to open and I eliminated all pressure by shifting to my side. He was already bruised that was going to be there regardless, and his shoulder was already injured. My delivery changed none of that. The location wouldn’t have changed the way things progressed. There were so many emotions surrounding this birth and postpartum, but I can breath a sigh of relieve knowing Moose’s though birth is not part of that now.